|One small step for man...One giant leap of terror|
I must not have been the only viewer to muse so. Lo and behold, when the fourth film was released, it was indeed entitled Leprechaun 4: In Space.
An evil Leprechaun at large in the vast reaches of the cosmos. The mind reels at the very concept alone. It is a concept that is rich with narrative, thematic and cinematographic potential.
Leprechaun 4: In Space far exceeded my expectations.
The film opens with a group of Space Marines landing on a remote planet in an unspecified part of the galaxy. While less erudite critics might site an homage to the early films of James Cameron, the more obvious homage is to Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and Oliver Stone's Platoon. This, of course, points to the beauty of Brian Trenchard-Smith's direction. Like all great cinema, Leprechaun 4: In Space accommodates multiple interpretations.
The evil Leprechaun of the film's title awaits the Marines. Trenchard-Smith brilliantly tears a page from the David Lynch book of filmmaking and offers no explanation as to how the Leprechaun managed to make his way from Las Vegas in the 20th century (as seen at the end of the epic Leprechaun 3) to a planet hundreds of light years from Earth and seemingly hundreds of years into the future. Also like Lynch, Trenchard-Smith displays a curious fixation with little people.
The Leprechaun is played by Warick Davis, once again reprising his classic role. Davis originated the role of Wicket, the Ewok, in George Lucas' now largely forgotten Star Wars series of films . Davis has also been seen in such obscure art house fare as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Willow. Davis makes some extraordinarily bold acting choices in the role. Most actors would consider the lilt of the Irish brogue de rigueur for the mischievous green hobgoblin. Davis, however, goes the entirely uncharted and unexpected route of endowing the Leprechaun with not an Irish accent but an English accent. The Irish intonations only escape Davis' mouth intermittently. The actor is clearly attempting to make a political commentary on the long unresolved situation in Northern Ireland.
As the Space Marines stumble upon the Leprechaun and his cache of gold, the Leprechaun quickly dispatches one of their lot with an emerald green lightsaber. It's rather an esoteric reference but it works for the film.
Later, the surviving battle fatigued Marines return to their ship. However, it soon becomes clear that their diminutive nemesis has stowed away within the very body of one of the Marines. Using his mastery of the dark arts, the Leprechaun has embedded himself in the man's penis. He bursts forth from the confines of the Marine's crotch during a sexual encounter gone horribly wrong; killing the poor man instantly. The Marine is allegorically destroyed by the phallocentrism of his own masculine aura. A wry jest indeed.
What follows is a complex narrative structure that uses many clever and completely unpredictable plot twists that deconstructs and redefines the essence of the evil Leprechaun oeuvre. The diverse story elements culminate in a climax that Trenchard-Smith renders with both originality and complete believability. Yet there is also a note of an ambiguous sense of closure as we watch parts of the destroyed emerald goblin float through space.
A large part of the events unfold in the unremittingly dark and expressionistic bowels of an immense space ship that conjures up an image of both humanity and cultural icons dwarfed by the ever growing presence of technological determinism. Not since Andrey Tarkovskiy's Solaris has the emptiness of space and the looming presence of technology so succinctly represented the metaphysical state of the human condition.
A stand-out performance in the uniformly stolid cast is that of Debra Dunning in the role of Pvt. Delores Costello. Dunning is an actor I had the pleasure of working with at a large corporate event in Orlando, Florida in 2002. As was the case then, Dunning invests great sensitivity, warmth, and humour into the role.
Leprechaun 4: In Space is not for everybody. It's thematic depth and arcane references may be lost on some audiences. While others may balk at its audacious ability to trivialize violence, sex, horror and death.
Proceed at your own peril.
Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!